How far off the rails has the Republican debt-ceiling hostage strategy gone? The Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity wants the GOP to change direction. The Financial Times reported yesterday:
A conservative activist group backed by the industrialist Koch brothers is urging Republicans to show restraint during US debt ceiling negotiations, representing a shift in position by the usually hardline Americans for Prosperity.The move by the influential group underscores concern that a political stand-off over extending the US's borrowing limit, which many Republicans are pushing for at the end of February, would diminish public support for sharp cuts in government spending, AFP's stated goal.
Tim Phillips, president of AFP, said the debt-ceiling crisis causes a "messaging" problem for conservatives -- if there's too much emphasis on debt-reduction, Phillips argued, it "becomes easier for liberals" to push a combination of spending cuts and new revenue. (The AFP doesn't care about the debt; it cares about shrinking government and slashing public investments.)
Phillips added that Republicans ought to avoid being labeled "hostage takers," which is made easier by the current GOP strategy.
Let's pause for a moment to appreciate the fact that when congressional Republicans have lost the Koch brothers' group, the party has a real problem on its hands.
The AFP's advice coincides with a new Washington Post/ABC News poll that found a clear majority of the American public (and even 45% of self-identified Republicans) believes the fight over spending cuts and the fight over the debt ceiling should be separate -- which is the exact opposite of the GOP plan.
Making matters even worse for Republicans, the New York Times reports today that the White House intends to partner with corporate executives on a debt-ceiling increase, which should be easy since "big business ... is "nearly united in skepticism of, or outright opposition to" the Republicans hostage strategy.
So, let's take stock of who opposes and who supports the GOP's debt-ceiling plan.
Among those who believe the debt-ceiling should not be held hostage, we find business leaders (including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable), economists, the Federal Reserve, several congressional Republicans, the financial industry, the Treasury Department, a variety of Republican media personalities (including Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich), and now the Koch brothers' lobbying group.
Indeed, even conservative media outlets are balking. The Wall Street Journal editorial page and National Review have urged their Republican allies to change course, and today, the editorial board of the Union Leader in New Hampshire, one of the most conservative editorial pages in the nation, urged the GOP to give up on the hostage strategy.
Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives need to take a firm stand against Washington's reckless spending habits. They just need to find a better place to make that stand than from atop the debt ceiling. [...]Obama has no desire to [put the federal government on the path to a balanced budget], which means Republicans will have to force his hand at some point. This is not that point.
On the other side of the fight we find congressional Republicans, Tea Partiers, and ... no one else.
If House Speaker John Boehner has a back-up alternative to threatening to hurt Americans on purpose unless his still-undefined demands are met, now would be a good time to roll it out.